To teenagers, life is a masquerade. It presents us with a daily opportunity to be someone else, whether that person be the hero or villain. With adults, we become the responsible and charming future. With our teachers, we become the independent but respectful thinkers. With our friends, we become the kind and loyal supporters. With ourselves, we become the epitome of all people, flawless in mind and body. There are definitely those who recognize their flaws. But their mask, beautifully crafted and perfected over time, projects otherwise. The worst part of these masks is having to deal with the accompanying cliques and their tendency to be exclusive. My mask is different from everyone else’s, but we are all the same. For everyone wears a mask to obscure themselves, like at a masquerade ball. However, because of our endless obsession with these masks, we fail to realize the pain that goes along with them. We cannot see the true nature of others, and this impacts who we associate with and trust.
So when the masks crack, and parts of a person really begin to show, we can be in for a rude awakening as the darkness begins to seep through. The concepts of popularity and social status are ones that humans grapple with on a daily basis, especially during teenage years. The masks that the popular people wear are utter perfection. These perfect masks, once put on, are very hard to take off. They stick with us, sometimes until they weather and become damaged beyond repair. Only then can we recreate ourselves, and for some, it is too late. Yet we want to wear these masks, even if our faces are destroyed beneath them.
We wear the masks to conceal and improve for vainglorious reasons. Often, the yearning for acceptance is a lead cause for bullying others, and the assuming of these masks. I have noticed that in my middle school, which divides students into talents, popularity is often derived from interest area. For example, those who study dance or athletics are higher on the popularity scale than those who study science or math, even though the popular kids are not necessarily the kind ones. It is this aspect of popularity that irks me the most. The fact that one can be popular for nothing more than a “cool” interest or aura. As a writing student, I face common stereotypical names like “nerd” or “geek,” that have commonly been used as a derogatory term. I have since learned to embrace the stereotypes that are associated with my interests, because they often reflect intellectual envy among students. At my school, we often wear our talent like a mask, and fail to let our other talents be recognized. Masks and labels are the basis of society, and are recurring issues that hinder us from advancing as one. Instead we march on divided, still oblivious to the anguish our different masks can cause.
In the sixth grade, when we were all just starting middle school with few acquaintances, the biggest goal was popularity, and decorating our masks. I tried to hang out with the kids who were beginning to establish themselves as “popular,” which ended backfiring in a sequence of events that are still painful to recollect.
However, through this, I learned that popularity is not based on how much you are accepted by others. Popularity is merely a mask that some, who project themselves to be better that us, wear. Of course, there are those who are popular for being good people, and whose masks are naturally beautiful, but I have yet to encounter any. At such a large ball, how can we expect to meet everyone? There is only so much ground we can cover, and we tend to stick with those similar to us. At my school, I believe that those I consider to be popular are not very nice. So why do I perceive them to be “cooler,” where in fact they are no better than the rest of us? Is it because I have been so oppressed by those deemed popular that I have become afraid to deem them anything else? I like to tell myself that I am over the bad times that middle school has brought upon me. I have realized that I am not. I now resent those who are popular, because I see bullies in every one from my experiences. I no longer try to see the good in them, because I am too afraid to find a false friend. And so the cracks deepen, in our masks and our hearts.
A few days ago, a person in my grade handed out invitations to their birthday party. It seems that everyone that I knew had received one except for me. I was so frustrated with this person, especially because they handed out the invites in the middle of class and lunch, indifferent to who was watching. This person blatantly disregarded any type of secrecy, and I saw them invite people that they rarely ever spoke to. I wondered why I had’t been invited. I had always considered them a friend, and we had known each other for three years. I wanted so badly not to care that I was’t invited. And yet, I couldn’t not care. The fact that this person, who was considered popular, could tear my mind apart with a slip of paper that I was denied of infuriated me. Their mask of popularity indemnified them against rebuttal for their insensitivity. Now, I completely understand their right to invite whomever they please, and I myself have have had parties that only some were invited to. But I was discreet, and handed out invites in private settings as to avoid hurting others. The worst part was sitting idle while everyone else was exclaiming over the invitation, again with no respect for those who had’t received one. How I wished to go up to this person and demand that they explain the grounds of my not being invited. I said nothing, knowing that speaking would be viewed as a bitter attempt at retaliation, and the petty anger rose to the surface, very nearly breaking the mask I had been wearing, The irony? The party was a masquerade ball.
At this endless masquerade, most of us hide ourselves from each other. And yet there are those who walk around unashamed and unmasked, with their minds open to all? Those precious few are viewed as fools by most for their naiveté. But I see them as the courageous ones, who walk into the ball with no costume and no mask. They are the outcasts and the lucky ones, and I envy them so. My only hope is to one day be one of those people. Just once, I wish I could cast off every artificial aspect of my body and personality, and let everyone see who I really am. And who knows? I might even see myself.